Why we should care about airport delays
Canadian governments are increasingly unable to deliver business-as-usual services
Since I wrote the post a few days ago about Canadian airports, I’ve been stewing on the idea of why we should care at all about airport delays in light of the slow collapse of health care in Canada, seen in such articles as this from CBC this morning:
Patients in emergency rooms around Ontario are waiting record lengths of time to get admitted to hospital, a situation medical professionals say only appears to be getting worse.
The trend is particularly worrisome for hospitals because it's happening despite a diminishing COVID-19 caseload, and because it comes at a time of year when the burden on emergency departments usually eases.
More than two years into the pandemic, the wait times are a sign of just how chronically strained the province's hospitals have become.
I’m regretting not jumping on this earlier as Tom Mulcair wrote a piece about “whole-of-government incompetence” getting part of the way there:
Everybody, all at once, has been doing everything possible to show how weak the federal government and its innumerable ministries and agencies have become in terms of simple public management.
This isn’t an accident in one place or an exception, it’s generalized. Red lights are blinking across the Privy Council Office dashboard, but no one is in charge. The PCO is the "ministry" of the Prime Minister, but actually managing things has never been Justin Trudeau’s strong suit.
Ouch. But he’s right, the government is failing at managing the country. It’s not at the government policy goals that I wrote about in April, it’s at the business-at-usual stuff. This is the regular stuff that you don’t elect a government to manage, it’s done implicitly. No one runs on the promise of delivering passports to the people in a timely fashion (maybe someone should?"). These sort of things are what we just expect the government to be able to deliver. This is ironic that started talking about a philosophy of “deliverology” just after the election in 2016.
I think there are a lot of partisans who have seized on the airport problem as a way of scoring cheap points on Trudeau, but I think it is emblematic of a real problem in Canada at all levels of government. I have some examples all from the last few weeks as well that shows that this is an evergreen, pan-Canadian issue:
It takes 40 weeks to process a first application for disability benefits at Veterans Canada, well below their service standards
Toronto has a lifeguard shortage so it can’t open it has limited pool service:
Ambulance service is routinely unavailable in Ottawa:
There have been no Ottawa paramedic units available to respond to calls an average of more than three times a day so far this year, as the service deals with an increase in calls and significant delays offloading patients in hospitals.
The mantra goes that a government with too many priorities is a government with no priorities. But these should not be priorities as they are just business-as-usual items of tasks the government has already committed itself to doing. The governments of Canada deliver ambulence service to Canadians. If they are not going to do it, who is going to?
So, to get back to the original question, it is true that airports are not a very important part of the responsibilities of the government, and that ER wait times are more important, but we should care about delays in airports because they are a symptom of a dysfunction in Canadian life. We have always expected our government to be able to maintain more than one system at the same time. I view executing new policy as a problem of “chewing gum and walking” but these BAU items are more like breathing and digesting at the same time, there shouldn’t be a problem with that.
Since this has impacted all levels of government, it’s hard to blame it all on Trudeau (although Poilievre will of course). Our governments are increasingly unable to provide the basic services that they are and should be providing. Airports are representative of many of how government (especially the Liberals) acts: ignore a problem, blame someone else then attempt to fix it months after it should have been actioned.
If government is operating effectively, it should appear as if government does nothing. The loose threads are starting to show just how much government is responsible for and what it looks like when things don’t work properly. It’s frustating as well because these are such ordinary services, what does crisis planning look like?